Time to check your distress beacons


The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has a holiday-season favour to ask of you: check that your distress beacon is registered, and your details are up-to-date.

Distress beacons, whether the aviation specific emergency location transmitter (ELT) type or the manually activated personal locator beacon (PLB) type, are devices that could save your life. Any aircraft flying more than 50 nm from its departure point (with a few exemptions) is required to carry an ELT, but for only a few hundred dollars an additional PLB gives you a second chance in situations where the ELT might not activate.

AMSA asks you to register your beacon with AMSA as soon as possible after you buy it.

Registration is free and easily completed online at www.amsa.gov.au/beacons. You’ll need:

  • your contact details
  • your beacon details
  • at least one emergency contact.

When AMSA receives an alert from a distress beacon, search and rescue coordinators look up its registration information and call the listed emergency contacts. This information helps AMSA coordinate a response as efficiently as possible. If, as sometimes happens, it’s a false alert, keeping your details up-to-date with AMSA means the situation can be resolved with just one phone call to the correctly registered beacon contact.

A couple of other points to remember:

  • You must carry proof of registration. Save your confirmation email/SMS or print a copy, or you can go online and log in to your account to show your beacon’s registration status.
  • Registration must be renewed every two years. You should also update your details whenever they change, or if you sell your beacon. And when an aircraft changes ownership, its ELT registration needs to be updated with AMSA.

Disposal of old beacons causes many false alerts to AMSA. If your beacon is to be disposed of please remember to update the AMSA beacon register.

Finally, AMSA would like to remind you to add details of your flight to your beacon registration. Remember:

  • this can be the same information that’s on your flight plan or flight note
  • that you can even add photos of your aircraft or the people travelling with you
  • that these details are available immediately to AMSA if the beacon is detected and will greatly assist with coordination and response, especially if the position of distress is unknown at first.


  1. Good subject.
    It just reminded me to check, but l have a problem.
    My PLB came with the aircraft l bought, we changed the personal registration data for the PLB and the aircraft data remains the same, (on the PLB rego) but now the aircraft registration has changed from VH to RAAus so now I’ll have to find out how to fix that too.
    As l was not givin the owners manual for the PLB on purchase of the aircraft l guess I’ll just have to Google it or find someone that can show me how to test it without having a chopper land on my roof.
    You Tube is a great way to edumacate an unedumacated knuckle dragging primate like me, and I’m left wondering why staff writers haven’t taken advantage of YouTube to answer unasked questions.
    Let me clear that up for you.
    Some pilots are not asking a lot of questions because of various reasons, for example, not wanting to be thought of as forgetful or ‘hey, you should know that’ so some people (like me) try and find answers to their “unasked” questions through other means without putting themselves under scrutiny.
    The reason l mention this is because I’m a Trainer Assessor with many years experience in mining safety and training, and have found over those years that a lot of candidates on courses don’t ask questions because of embarrassment, the stupid question syndrome, the only stupid question is the one you DON’T ask.

    So how about some YouTube time? Some vids I’ve been watching on flying around Melb air space has been great, especially Moorabbin and with radio procedures.

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